A sizzling success

The Sandy Man with Chloe Neil, Niamh Buckley, David Watson and Charlie Watson at the Duagh Summer Festival.
The Sandy Man with Chloe Neil, Niamh Buckley, David Watson and Charlie Watson at the Duagh Summer Festival.

Donal Nolan

SIZZLING, succulent meats from the hand of local boy-done-good John Relihan brought them out in their hundreds to Duagh for a summer festival with a difference over the weekend.

It's not every day a Kerry village can field its own Jamie Oliver-trained chef, after all and John Relihan - senior sous chef at Oliver's Barbecoa restaurant in London - certainly didn't disappoint.

The unmistakable smell of a serious barbecue was evident long before reaching the Duagh National School epicentre on Saturday - the first day of the weekend extravaganza. There, John Relihan and a cohort of top chef friends from the British capital were busy serving some of the finest barbecued meats tasted in this country to the hundreds - just yards from the house he grew up in.

Little did the Duagh lad ever think he would be returning to feed the masses as such a celebrated talent when he left for the bright lights of London just a few years ago. John was back in Duagh making good on a promise he made the Duagh Development Association at last year's inaugural Gathering-themed summer festival: that he would return to cook for the entire village.

Held in aid of a local fund to renovate the bell tower on Duagh Parish Church, the event simply went down a storm, bringing hundreds if not thousands into the village over the weekend. Meanwhile, there was no shortage of ancillary colour too - including a couple of Maori men on hand cooking in a traditional Kiwi ground-oven and giving the populace a deeper sense of what the Haka really means.

John was definitely the poster boy for the entire weekend amid a deep sense of local pride.

Bernie and Cáit Broderick and their Kilcara neighbours Marys Cronin and Byrne and Michael Cronin were relishing the atmosphere. "It's great to see so much life in the village!" Bernie said. Michael meanwhile ventured a sentiment no one in the village would take any issue with: "John Relihan is an absolute credit to Duagh."

Mary Cronin also paid tribute to the massive workload by John, his friends and the Duagh Development Association required to pull off such an event. "A lot of very hard work went into this so it's great to see such crowds here," she said.

John Joe O'Brien was busy marshalling the hordes, but was still managing to enjoy the fine summer atmosphere. For John Joe, the whole event was made possible by the sense of community togetherness in the area. "The community spirit in Duagh is something else as the people here are very close to one another and never found wanting when help is needed. I know that if I was called on to have 10 or 12 lads together for a community job I'll have them in a matter of minutes. We're all very proud of John of course too, he's a great credit to Duagh and to his mother Maryann, who is a lady."

They even came over from Listowel for the big feed. Christy and Mary Sheehy were lappin' up the craic with Duagh friends Gerry O'Carroll, Liam Sheehy (no relation) and Nora Murphy. What kind of grub were they here for? "A bit of pandy!" Nora laughed, as Gerry pointed out how hard it is to beat the bacon and cabbage. All were agreed on the impressive scale of the event - almost as impressive as the marriage of Christy and Mary, details of a significant anniversary they are celebrating slipping out in the banter. What's the secret to years of connubial happiness? "Selective hearing!" Mary laughed.

Julia McElligott and family Linda, toddler Teagan and Cormac Phillips were tucking into a fine-looking plate of succulent pork, baked potatoes and well-dressed salad. "He is brilliant," Julia said of John Relihan as she described the gathering as a great boost for Duagh. "It's great to see us all coming together, especially in the times that are in it." Cormac was well impressed with the grub: "It's top-notch."

And it was, the meat as juicy and tender as could be with sumptuous side dishes.

Duagh Development Association organisers, chairman John Mangan and PRO B'Anne O'Connor were delighted it had all turned out so well. "We're thrilled," John said.

"These events are always a bit of a risk but it's coming together 100 per cent and in lovely weather."

The €10 cover charge was expected to see the association well on the way to providing for the total restoration of the historic bell tower, too.

"We can't get public funding for all these little projects so that's why something like this is so important and we are delighted that John came back as promised!"


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